I spent some time recently with a chef/owner who opened a new restaurant and was eager to show me his place and try his food. And, indeed, he had created a very cool place and the food was quite good. So good, in fact, that I went to the restaurant a short time later to revel in the energy and excitement of a new, hot restaurant.
I found a place at the bar and tried to catch the eye of two bartenders. The place wasn't packed, but it was busy, so I was patient. One bartender apparently had a rope around his leg that prevented him from moving to the opposite side of the bar he was moored to. The other bartender was doing something on the back bar that prevented her from turning around to face the people she was there to serve. For 10 minutes. She turned her back on customers for 10 minutes. Ten awkward minutes.
When she finally turned around, she walked from behind the bar into the restaurant. I'm pretty sure she never saw me. And I would have been okay with her acknowledging me and apologizing for being tied up with some problem. But she never saw me because she never looked. If she had looked, she would also have found several empty glasses from customers who were looking to replenish.
It's a big place and the chef/owner is way in the back putting out the kind of food that attracts customers. What he apparently does not know is that the front of the house is providing the kind of service that chases customers away. Which leads me to something my old man told a long time ago. If you're going to get married, he said, pick a wife as if you were a policeman picking a partner because you're going to be heading down a lot of dark alleys in life and you want to make sure she has your back.
In the case of this restaurant, from the start, it's been a bad marriage. And who wants a ringside seat to a bad marriage? Not me. I walked out that night, but not before the hostess thanked me for coming. What?
I know what some of you are going to say: “For god sakes give 'em a break they just opened.” I hear the same sort of thing when owners complain about their restaurant being reviewed too quickly by the local newspaper or magazine. But when someone walks through your door, whether it's the first day or the 600th, they're not interested in excuses.
I just got an invite to a birthday party, and guess where it's being held? I ran into the birthday girl who mentioned the party and she said, “I've been hearing some bad things about the service there. He (the chef/owner) better not mess up my party.”
That's the point: If you're involved in a bad professional marriage, nobody wins. Have you struggled with a similar scenario? If so, I'd like to hear about it. Were you able to repair your damaged professional marriage, or did it end up in divorce? Email me.